Stretch and I drove up to Massachusetts to hike the Robert Frost Trail. Finding out any practical information online for backpacking it was difficult. There is a guide from 2004 that says camping is prohibited. There is a 2012 Amherst Conservation map of a large portion of the trail that did not show any campsites. Amherst’s website listed a few areas where camping is allowed with a permit, but no information on how to get the permit. Both of us called and emailed Amherst Conservation, Massachusetts DCR, and AMC Berkshire many times looking for information and came up empty. Only one person even sent a response. We decided we would just camp on the conservation areas on the Amherst map sans permit, and then in state forest when we progressed beyond the map.
We arrived at the Notch Visitors Center at the south end of the trail right before dusk. It was pretty busy and some guys we asked in the parking lot said plenty of people park overnight there and camp in the area so that made us feel a little more comfortable leaving the car. We set out up the trail and very quickly had to pull out our headlamps. After a mile or two, we hopped off trail to find a campsite.
In the morning, we were up right at dawn to pack up and get moving before any day hikers showed up. We stopped at a viewpoint for breakfast and then continued on. The trail had a lot of PUDs (pointless ups and downs) but the foliage looked great.
The trail entered a stretch of private property then so we had to walk down a powerline for a while and do a little road walking. Right before we entered some farm fields, we ran into a couple of day hikers who gave us some information on the upcoming trail. They didn’t seem to think it strange that we had large packs on so there must at least occasionally be other backpackers on this trail.
In going through the road walks, I pulled out the guide to see if it might be helpful at all. We had written it off in the car because the first section I read did not even exist. It was proposed trail ten years ago so I guess the project got derailed. It turned out the guide for the parts of the trail that did exist seemed to be spot on though. The trail was usually fairly well marked with orange blazes, and arrows when entering road walks, but there were a couple of places the guide definitely helped as well.
We saw a few small piles of bear scat around the corn fields, and then entered the woods again in the Lawrence Swamp area. It was getting on to lunch time so we were waiting for a good water source to stop at. Some of the smaller streams on the map were dried up but the standing swamp water we passed was a little too disgusting so we moved on. Eventually we found water that was sort of running so we had lunch there.
After lunch, we had a lot more private property to go through, so there was more road walking. At one point, we had to hop over the middle of a guard rail where there was no shoulder and follow the trail down a steep embankment between two chain link fences, with a landfill behind one of them. It was not the most scenic trail. We did come across one cool area, a teepee built in memory of a cat, called Lucky’s Peace Spot.
We reached the Amethyst Brook conservation area at dinner time, where we planned on camping, but it was a much smaller area than expected and there were people everywhere since it was near a road. We found what we thought was a good stealth spot to wait for dark to setup, and people walked by there too. Then a skunk walked by. I knew it was supposed to be pouring rain all the next morning and we’d have to be out of our tents at first light again due to the amount of use the area was getting, so with all of the factors combined, we decided to go to town.
It was dark at that point so we night hiked out and called a cab. It took us back down to the Notch to get the car, and we headed back to town to get pizza and stay at the HoJos. We set a plan for the next day to go park the car at the northern end of the trail, in Wendell State Forest, then hitch back to where we got off and hike to the car.
We went right by the State Forest Headquarters so we also tried to stop there and get more info, or at least find out if we could park there since it was at the end of the trail. There was a truck outside, the lights were on inside, and we heard voices, but the door was locked and no one answered our knocks. They also did not answer when we called.
We parked down the road a ways at a different trailhead instead. Stretch wasn’t sure she even wanted to hike the Robert Frost Trail any more so we made a deal that we had to be in a car on the way there within an hour or we’d turn back and go do something else. We were picked up after five minutes by a guy who could not believe the trouble we’d had getting information about the trail and insisted on stopping at the headquarters again to talk to them, and they still did not answer. He apologized on behalf of the state of Massachusetts and dropped us off in the little town just outside the forest.
Next we needed to hitch a long ways down one road so it seemed easy, but people were just waving at us instead of stopping. Ten minutes before the time limit was up, a woman turned back around to come get us, and we were on our way. She stopped a few miles short of our endpoint so we ended up on a very busy college campus, where everyone driving by probably thought we were just weird students with too large packs and wouldn’t pick us up.
Time to walk. I love walking, obviously, but I don’t like to do it with a big pack on, off the trail. That’s what hitching is for. We walked about halfway to the trailhead and then sat on a bench for a while trying to decide if we were fed up completely yet or not. Since it was very likely we couldn’t get a ride back to the car, and we couldn’t find an appropriate bus schedule, we realized the most logistically simple way of getting back to the car was to hike there.
So we kept walking. Stretch put out an inquiry on facebook to see if we knew anyone in the area, and right as we got to the trailhead, Rachel, a friend of a friend, called and said she’d come get us. We got all the way back to the trail, but the whole thing was so annoying, we left again.
Rachel dropped us back off at the car and we decided to go visit a friend of mine in Vermont and do some hiking there.
I wanted to track the trail since there was only old information available online so here is what I came up with for the section we did. The first map is all the camps, water sources, roads, parking, etc, that I marked using Backcountry Navigator on my phone. The second map is tracking and check in messages sent from my SPOT device.